Wednesday, May 23, 2007

my nephew the parrot

As I reported earlier this spring, my nephew Carl likes to talk. While he doesn't have a lot of words in French yet, he's started repeating a lot of what I say. Here's what I've heard just in the past two weeks:

Actions: Dodo (sleep), Pipi (pee-pee), Balance (swing), Touche (touch), Tourne (turn), Saute (jump)

Food: Boeuf (beef), Fraise (strawberry), Soupe (soup), Mage (fromage--cheese), Yaourt (yogurt)

Animals/toys: Balle (ball), Poisson (fish), Mouton (sheep)

Clothes/body parts: Nez (nose), Bouche (mouth), Chaussure (shoe), Pied (foot), Chapeau (hat)

Nature: Arbre (tree), Fleur (flower), Papillon (butterfly), Oiseau (bird), Parc (playground), Trou (hole)

Misc: Bonjour (hello), Miam (yum), Clé (key), Porte (door), Boum (boom), Ciao (good-bye)

However, he doesn't say these words on his own yet, so I can't be sure that he's acquired them and fully understands what they mean. I'm curious about why he repeats some words but not others. Some words like "trou" are brand new; I can't remember having used that word with him before we found a hole in the ground at the park that he likes to sit in. Yet he likes to say "trou" after me, but not other equally easy words that he's heard hundreds more times. Why say "bonjour" but not "salut" (hi)? Why "mouton" and not "cheval" (horse)? Why "tourne" and not "monte" (climb)? Maybe it has something to do with the sounds (he seems to like "ou" in French) , whether or not he knows the equivalent word in English, or its importance to him as a one-year-old. (Please share your comments if you have any ideas!)

Even more impressive is the number of French words he says on his own without any prompting whatsoever (often with me, sometimes with his English-speaking parents):

Pain (bread)
Bonbon (candy)
Mange (eat)
Biscuit (cookie)
Pomme (apple)
Lait (milk)
Voiture (car)
Roue (wheel)
Atchoum (achoo)
Tête (head)
Tatie (auntie)
Tonton (uncle)

So, you can see that the boy likes food and cars!


  1. Wow, this makes me feel hopeful. I sometimes question my ability to teach Dani Spanish when there is so much English around her, but if you can do it with your nephew once a week, there may be hope for the rest of us.

  2. Ah .. how cute! About his choice of words .. hehe.. probably indeed Carl is very much impressed by 'ou'.

  3. Yesterday, Carl also said the following words in French on his own: monte (go up), descend (go down), biscuit (cookie/cracker), fromage (cheese), ours (bear), tracteur (tractor), au revoir (good-bye), chaise (chair), and facteur (mailman).

    He also repeated these new(ish) words after me: arc-en-ciel (rainbow), stylo (pen), coucou (peekaboo), oui (yes), crocodile, and chaussure (shoe).

  4. Bravo, Carl!

    Sarah, it is amazing how much French Carl is learning with you. Also, it is great that you have kept such accurate records of his language development; that is also a wonderful gift for him as well!


  5. Sounds like he's doing really well! And all this on just one day a week!

    Sophie is more into arguing about only using English these days.... She has her few German words she uses all the time still, but mainly she's into English. I'm still hoping this will change when I go on mat leave soon and she'll spend more time with me.

    Anyway, congratulations!

  6. Thanks, everyone! I too am blown away by how much he has learned with just one afternoon a week for a year at such a young age. Apparently he has more words in French than many kids his age have even in their first language! This definitely contradicts the myth that says acquiring two languages at once will inevitable delay a child's onset of speech. (Every child is different, of course.)

    Smashedpea--I'm sure Sophie will get much more comfortable in German when she's home with you and the new baby all day!